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Ruff juggles lineup as Stars look to snap skid

Sharp skates, could be be ready by Sunday

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

It appears coach Lindy Ruff will juggle his lineup as the Dallas Stars try to snap a three-game losing streak when they take on the Flames in Calgary tonight.

Ruff has juggled both his forward lines and defense pairs, including splitting up Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Benn could play on a line with Radek Faksa and Lauri Korpikoski while Seguin may center a line with Antoine Roussel and Patrick Eaves.

"If you look at where the scoring is coming from, just trying to get some balance with five-on-five scoring from different lines," Ruff said. "I think our power play did an excellent job in the game [Tuesday], but we need a little bit of a balanced attack from two or three lines."

Justin Dowling, a Calgary area native, is expected to be in tonight at forward, centering a line with Gemel Smith and Adam Cracknell. The Stars called up Dowling over the weekend to give them 12 healthy forwards, but he sat out as a healthy scratch when Ruff decided to use Patrik Nemeth at forward for the games at Chicago and Winnipeg.

On defense, Dan Hamhuis is expected to be paired with John Klingberg tonight and Jamie Oleksiak will come in and play on the third pair with Jordie Benn. Oleksiak has been a healthy scratch the past nine games and will play for the first time since Oct. 20. Esa Lindell and Nemeth are the expected scratches on defense.

"I am just looking for some freshness," Ruff said of bringing Oleksiak into the lineup. "I think there is some fatigue in Esa's game. He's played a lot, and he's been under a lot of duress the last couple [games]. Jamie has looked good in practice and skated well, so get him back in."

Kari Lehtonen will get the start in goal. Lehtonen got the start Tuesday in Winnipeg and was pulled midway through the game after the Jets took a 4-1 lead.  

Video: "Dream come true number two"

Spezza still out, Sharp skates and could play this weekend

Stars center Jason Spezza will miss his third straight game due to a lower body injury suffered in Saturday's game against Chicago at American Airlines Center.

"He skated yesterday morning, and it wasn't good," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "He can't push it right now. He's trying to push through, but he's not there."

Spezza continues to be listed as day to day.

Right wing Patrick Sharp skated with the Stars Thursday morning in Calgary. It was Sharp's first time skating with the team since he went out with a concussion on Oct. 20. He could be ready to play on the final game of the road trip.

"It's a step in the right direction and some light at the end of the tunnel for him," Ruff said. "He's feeling better. Hopefully, we can get him two or three practices, and he can be ready possibly for Sunday."

Flames Watch

Brian Elliott is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Flames, who are 1-4-0 in their past five games. Forward Matthew Tkachuk injured his wrist in Wednesday's practice and is out tonight. Tkachuk is listed as day to day and is expected to be replaced tonight by Linden Vey, whom the Flames recalled from the AHL. There are some familiar faces in the Calgary lineup. Former Stars Jyrki Jokipakka and Alex Chiasson are both regulars for the Flames. And former Stars coach Glen Gulutzan is in his first season as head coach in Calgary.

Tonight's Game

Who: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames
Where: Scotiabank Saddledome, Calgary
When: 8:00 p.m.
TV: Fox Sports Southwest
Radio: The Ticket 1310 AM/96.7 FM

Stars Projected Lineup

Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Lauri Korpikoski
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Gemel Smith - Justin Dowling - Adam Cracknell

Dan Hamhuis - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Jordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen
Antti Niemi

Scratched: Esa Lindell, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Jason Spezza (lower body), Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip)

Flames Projected Lineup

Johnny Gaudreau - Sean Monahan - Alex Chiasson
Micheal Ferland - Mikael Backlund - Michael Frolik
Hunter Shinkaruk - Sam Bennett - Troy Brouwer
Linden Vey - Matt Stajan - Freddie Hamilton

Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Jyrki Jokipakka - Dougie Hamilton
Brett Kulak - Deryk Engelland

Brian Elliott
Chad Johnson

Scratched: Dennis Wideman
Injured: Matthew Tkachuk (wrist), Lance Bouma (shoulder), Kris Versteeg (groin) and Ladislav Smid (neck)

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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